Puerto Rico

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Populated for centuries by aboriginal peoples, the island was claimed by the Spanish Crown in 1493 following Columbus' second voyage to the Americas. In 1898, after 400 years of colonial rule that saw the indigenous population nearly exterminated and African slave labor introduced, Puerto Rico was ceded to the US as a result of the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans were granted US citizenship in 1917. Popularly-elected governors have served since 1948. In 1952, a constitution was enacted providing for internal self government. In plebiscites held in 1967, 1993, and 1998, voters chose to retain commonwealth status.


Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of the Dominican Republic

Geographic coordinates:

18 15 N, 66 30 W


total: 9,104 sq km
water: 145 sq km
land: 8,959 sq km


tropical marine, mild; little seasonal temperature variation


mostly mountains with coastal plain belt in north; mountains precipitous to sea on west coast; sandy beaches along most coastal areas

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Cerro de Punta 1,338 m

Natural resources:

some copper and nickel; potential for onshore and offshore oil

Land use:

arable land: 3.95%
permanent crops: 5.52%
other: 90.53% (2001)

Irrigated land:

400 sq km (1998 est.)

Natural hazards:

periodic droughts; hurricanes

Environment - current issues:

erosion; occasional drought causing water shortages

Geography - note:

important location along the Mona Passage - a key shipping lane to the Panama Canal; San Juan is one of the biggest and best natural harbors in the Caribbean; many small rivers and high central mountains ensure land is well watered; south coast relatively dry; fertile coastal plain belt in north


3,897,960 (July 2004 est.)

Ethnic groups:

white (mostly Spanish origin) 80.5%, black 8%, Amerindian 0.4%, Asian 0.2%, mixed and other 10.9%


Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant and other 15%


Spanish, English

Dependency status:

commonwealth associated with the US

Government type:



San Juan

Administrative divisions:

none (commonwealth associated with the US); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are 78 municipalities (municipios, singular - municipio) at the second order; Adjuntas, Aguada, Aguadilla, Aguas Buenas, Aibonito, Anasco, Arecibo, Arroyo, Barceloneta, Barranquitas, Bayamon, Cabo Rojo, Caguas, Camuy, Canovanas, Carolina, Catano, Cayey, Ceiba, Ciales, Cidra, Coamo, Comerio, Corozal, Culebra, Dorado, Fajardo, Florida, Guanica, Guayama, Guayanilla, Guaynabo, Gurabo, Hatillo, Hormigueros, Humacao, Isabela, Jayuya, Juana Diaz, Juncos, Lajas, Lares, Las Marias, Las Piedras, Loiza, Luquillo, Manati, Maricao, Maunabo, Mayaguez, Moca, Morovis, Naguabo, Naranjito, Orocovis, Patillas, Penuelas, Ponce, Quebradillas, Rincon, Rio Grande, Sabana Grande, Salinas, San German, San Juan, San Lorenzo, San Sebastian, Santa Isabel, Toa Alta, Toa Baja, Trujillo Alto, Utuado, Vega Alta, Vega Baja, Vieques, Villalba, Yabucoa, Yauco

National holiday:

US Independence Day, 4 July (1776); Puerto Rico Constitution Day, 25 July (1952)


ratified 3 March 1952; approved by US Congress 3 July 1952; effective 25 July 1952

Legal system:

based on Spanish civil code and within the US Federal system of justice

Economy - overview:

Puerto Rico has one of the most dynamic economies in the Caribbean region. A diverse industrial sector has far surpassed agriculture as the primary locus of economic activity and income. Encouraged by duty-free access to the US and by tax incentives, US firms have invested heavily in Puerto Rico since the 1950s. US minimum wage laws apply. Sugar production has lost out to dairy production and other livestock products as the main source of income in the agricultural sector. Tourism has traditionally been an important source of income, with estimated arrivals of nearly 5 million tourists in 1999. Growth fell off in 2001-03, largely due to the slowdown in the US economy.

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

6.5% (2003 est.)

Labor force:

1.3 million (2000)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture 3%, industry 20%, services 77% (2000 est.)

Agriculture - products:

sugarcane, coffee, pineapples, plantains, bananas, livestock products, chickens


pharmaceuticals, electronics, apparel, food products, tourism

Exports - commodities:

chemicals, electronics, apparel, canned tuna, rum, beverage concentrates, medical equipment

Exports - partners:

US 90.3%, UK 1.6%, Netherlands 1.4%, Dominican Republic 1.4% (2002 est.)

Imports - commodities:

chemicals, machinery and equipment, clothing, food, fish, petroleum products

Imports - partners:

US 55.0%, Ireland 23.7%, Japan 5.4% (2002 est.)


US dollar (USD)

Telephones - main lines in use:

1,329,500 (2002)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

1,211,111 (2001)

Telephone system:

general assessment: modern system integrated with that of the US by high-capacity submarine cable and Intelsat with high-speed data capability
domestic: digital telephone system; cellular telephone service
international: country code - 1-787; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat; submarine cable to US


total: 96 km
narrow gauge: 96 km 1.000-m gauge (2003)


total: 14,400 km
paved: 14,400 km
unpaved: 0 km (1999 est.)

Ports and harbors:

Aguadilla, Arecibo, Fajardo, Guanica, Guayanilla, Guayama, Mayaguez, Playa de Ponce, San Juan

Merchant marine:

total: 2 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 36,728 GRT/37,048 DWT
foreign-owned: United States 2
registered in other countries: 5 (2003 est.)
by type: container 1, roll on/roll off 1


30 (2003 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 17
over 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 5 (2003 est.)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 13
1,524 to 2, 437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 10 (2003 est.)

Military - note:

defence is the responsibility of the US